Research funders play a key role in the science sector. Excellent research would hardly be possible without the multifaceted support of a wide range of funding organisations. At the same time, through their funding-allocation and research-assessment procedures, research funders exert influence, especially over the publication of the results of the research that they fund.

Research funders and science organisations are increasingly committing themselves to the goal of achieving open access (OA) to the results of publicly funded research. An important motive is the enhancement of the national and international visibility of research results and, thus, the consolidation of the country’s position as a centre of science and research – also in competition with other countries. OA is also of central importance when it comes to promoting interdisciplinary research and international collaboration because, in times of tight budgets, funds are often lacking to enable scholars and scientists to access the publications of other disciplines. The fact that the financial means no longer suffice to procure all resources of possible relevance to research no longer applies only to emerging and developing countries. Research results published in OA are optimally re-usable. Moreover, OA promotes the transparency of research results and facilitates quality assurance in science and scholarship.

From the perspective of science organisations and public-sector research funders, one reason for supporting OA to scientific and scholarly information is to create the equivalent value of the public funding of research and to bring about a situation where research results generated with public funds are, where possible, also publicly accessible and thus available for everyone to use. The possibilities of obliging funding recipients to provide OA to their research results are limited by academic freedom and freedom of publication (the codification of which differs from country to country), and possibly also by science policy interests.

However, OA is also increasingly important for private funding organisations. For example, in its OA policy, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is the largest private foundation in the world, requires that research results generated by the projects it funds be published in OA under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence.

For research funders, it is ultimately a question of maximising the benefits of the research they fund. Because OA maximises the reach of research results, it contributes to the achievement of this goal. Funding organisations – be they public-sector or private agencies – should therefore clearly call for OA and incorporate it into their grant agreements.

Many funding organisations have published an OA policy in which they adopt a clear position on OA and to which they align their further funding strategy. As a rule, the policy usually specifies the concrete funding measures and priorities that arise from the organisation’s position on OA and the conditions under which funding will be provided.

The Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities has been signed by a large number of research funders, including the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). At European level, the European Heads of Research Councils (EUROHORCs) and the European Science Foundation (ESF) have committed themselves in their Visions on a European Research Area to the goal of achieving OA to the results of publicly funded research and have presented a catalogue of measures to reach this goal. A selection of position statements by other research funders can be found here[gleicher int. Link nicht exist. Abschnitt]; further information on the OA policies of research funders in Europe is provided by the SHERPA-JULIET database. The strategic coordination of research funders’ and science organisations’ support for OA has been undertaken, for example, by the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany within the framework of its Priority Initiative “Digital Information”.

In addition to the science- and research-policy endorsement of OA, funding organisations can develop activities in the following areas to support it:

  • Public relations and awareness raising
  • Publishing costs
  • OA funding programmes and instruments

Public relations and awareness raising

The public-relations and awareness-raising measures that research funders pursue in support of OA are diverse. They range from suitably designed page areas on the websites of the respective funders, through brochures and other information material, to conducting studies on the extent of scholars’ and scientists’ knowledge of OA. Concrete awareness-raising activities are also part of the task profile (the DFG has also funded the information platform Other examples are the JISC’s Briefing Paper on Open Access, the Wellcome Trust’s Guide to Open Access, the DFG study Publikationsstrategien im Wandel (Publishing Strategies in Flux), and the EU Commission’s online information on the FP7.

However, the most important measure is to clearly communicate and make transparent the funding organisation’s own OA policy and the funding measures and priorities associated with it. Scholars and scientists tend to prefer to distribute their research results in conventional, tried-and-tested forms of publication rather than trying out new distribution channels. This is especially the case when they are not familiar with the research funder’s stance on OA and they assume that electronic publications do not receive the desired level of recognition, for example in funding proposals. Moreover, some authors, especially those in the humanities, have reservations about OA. Hence, it is a question of addressing their fears and rebutting their prejudices.

Costs of Open Access publishing

From the point of view of scholarly and scientific authors, the most important instrument for the promotion of OA by research funders is undoubtedly the provision of financial support for OA publishing. In the context of their OA policy, research funders usually specify within what framework and according to what award criteria and modalities author-side publication fees will be assumed.

In recent years, various ways of assuming the costs of OA publication fees have become an established part of research funders’ practices. The requirement to provide OA to research results is increasingly intertwined with the provision of funds for OA publications. Corresponding funding offerings are provided, for example, by Research Councils UK (RCUK) (cf. their OA policy) and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). Within the framework of its Open Access Publishing Programme, the German Research Foundation (DFG) supports the establishment of publication funds at German universities (cf. Business models).

Research organisations also assume publishing costs directly – either retrospectively on separate application (e.g. in the case of the FWF) or as a part of the total project funding applied for (e.g. in the case of the DFG and the European Commission). Moreover, in future it will apparently be possible to obtain a reimbursement of publishing costs from the European Commission even after the project funding has ended.

Open Access funding programmes and instruments

Research funders can encourage and support the development of infrastructures that are necessary for, or conducive to, the further proliferation and development of OA models. Possible measures include funding programmes to support the establishment or expansion of OA journals or the conversion of closed-access journals to OA, and programmes to improve the quantitative and qualitative supply of disciplinary and institutional repositories. Within the framework of the EU project DRIVER, a consolidated technical infrastructure of networked repositories has been built and a confederation of repositories initiated, into which national networks such as the German Netzwerk von Open-Access-Repositorien (Network of OA Repositories) are being integrated. There are several third-party funded projects devoted to developing value-added services on the basis of networked repositories, for example OA-Statistics, oaps (Open Access Plagiarism Search), PubLister, and PUMA.

Within its funding programme “Infrastructure for Electronic Publications and the Digital Communication of Science”, which is administered by its Scientific Library Services and Information Systems (LIS) group, the DFG offers funding opportunities for projects in the area of OA. In the past, funding has been provided for OA journals and repositories, the development of business models for electronic publishing (e.g. for OA monographs), and, not least, for the information platform and the German-language Open Journal Systems (OJS) information platform.

The European Commission strongly supports and promotes OA, and it funds several projects in the context of OA and Open Science. Since 2009, within the framework of OpenAIRE and its follow-up projects OpenAIREplus and OpenAIRE2020, the implementation of OA throughout Europe has been funded and a technical infrastructure and a Europe-wide information service has been made available that advises and supports researchers and institutions in implementing OA. Other funded projects include PASTEUR4OA, which aims to contribute to the Europe-wide harmonisation of OA policies on the basis of the OA policy within Horizon2020, and the Foster project, whose primary objective is a Europe-wide training programme to help scholars and scientists, librarians, and other participants to implement Open Science practices in their daily workflows.

Linking funding to Open Access

The possibilities of obliging funding recipients to provide OA to their research results are limited by the academic freedom and the freedom of publication of authors (the codification of which varies from country to country), and possibly also by science policy interests. In many legal systems, scholarly and scientific authors are free, in principle, to decide whether, and in what form, they will publish the results of their work – cf. in Germany, for example, Article 5 para. 3 of the German Basic Law (GG) and Section 12 (1) of the Germany Copyright Act (§ 12 para. 1 UrhG).

The German Research Foundation (DFG) expects funded scholars and scientists to endeavour to provide OA to their research results. However, to date the DFG has not issued a general OA mandate.

The Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences (SAHS) has issued recommendations to its members for the implementation of OA, while the Swiss National Science Foundation requires its grantees to provide OA to research results obtained with the help of SNSF grants and makes funds available for this purpose.

The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) also requires its grantees to make FWF-funded research results available to the public via the green or the gold road to OA (in the latter case, under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence) (cf. the FWF’s OA policy).

The strongest impulse currently comes from the European Commission. It emphatically endorses OA and Open Science and has made OA mandatory for certain funding recipients in the research programme FP7 (2007-2013) and for all funding recipients in the Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) programme. This affects many large research projects – the current framework programme Horizon 2020 has a total volume of approximately 80 billion euros. The obligation to provide OA to research results can be fulfilled by means of “gold” OA publishing or by archiving the works in an OA repository.

British and U.S. research funders, for example the Wellcome Trust and the National Institutes of Health, make the award of funds contingent upon the provision of OA to research results generated by funded projects.

Most public-sector research funders expect OA to be provided through journals (gold OA) or, alternatively, via the green road to OA (self-archiving) – if necessary after an embargo period has expired. Only rarely are grantees required to use an open licence. However, funding organisations can exert a strong influence by obliging funding recipients to immediately archive their publications in a repository (indicating the duration of the embargo period in the repository) and by specifying the maximum embargo period. Requiring grantees to make a further copy of their works available to the public in a repository specified by the research funder, irrespective of the OA journal or OA repository they have chosen, is also part of the range of possibilities.